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Rudy Giuliani Ramps Up Campaign to Discredit Mueller Probe; Newly-discovered TSA Program Tracks Unsuspecting Passengers; Gallup Weekly Poll Has Trump's Approval Rating at 42 Percent; Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired July 30, 2018 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:00]POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Subscribe today on iTunes.

Top of the hour. Good Monday morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

President Trump is coming out swinging this week at Special Counsel Robert Mueller again. And while it's not entirely clear what prompted this new series of attacks and personal attacks and allegations, reporters will have the chance to ask the president today. He is set to hold a news conference in just a few hours with Italy's prime minister who is in Washington. That is at 2:00 p.m. Eastern. Of course you'll see it right here on CNN.

In the meantime let's go to the White House. Our Abby Phillip is there. The president -- I mean, so many tweets this weekend. Many of them aimed at the special counsel. And then this morning, his lawyer Rudy Giuliani back on the attack, launching attacks, making accusations of his own.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. From the president, some really pointed attacks at Robert Mueller. And a series of lengthy tweets alleging some kinds of conflicts that should prevent him from leading this investigation. The president said, Mueller is engaged in a nasty business conflict that should keep him from leading the special counsel probe.

But what those conflicts are, we just have no idea. The White House, we've have asked them over the weekend what the president was referring to. We've heard nothing at all. But CNN's Alisyn Camerota had an opportunity to talk to Rudy Giuliani this morning and posed the very question to him. And Giuliani seems to also have no idea what the president is referring to. Listen.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: How can the president make this claim and not support it?


CAMEROTA: Why is it up to Robert Mueller to have to support the president's tweet?

GIULIANI: Because he has the conflict, not the president.

CAMEROTA: What's the conflict?

GIULIANI: I can't tell you. I'm not sure I know exactly what the conflict -- I have a good idea what it is. It's one that would have kept me out of the investigation.


PHILLIP: So just to be clear on what's being said here, the president is alleging that Mueller has a conflict that he also -- and his lawyer also says that Mueller is the one who has to tell the world what that conflict is. But Giuliani, the president's lawyer, doesn't know what the conflict is but claims that if he had that conflict, he wouldn't be allowed to run the investigation either. A lot of that doesn't seem to make any sense. But we'll see if President Trump will take the opportunity to explain what is behind that tweet. He has the press conference with the Italian prime minister later this afternoon.

Also, several opportunities to take some questions from reporters in a pool spray at the Oval Office later today as well. Again, this is one of those opportunities where reporters often take to shout questions at the president. Last week when a CNN reporter tried to do that, the White House tried to punish her. But we'll see whether they do that again today -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes. Let's hope not. Let's hope that all the reporters get their questions in.

Abby, thank you for the reporting from the White House.

Our legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers joins me now.

Jennifer, nice to have you. Let's listen to a little bit more of what Rudy Giuliani said to Alisyn Camerota in that extraordinary, lengthy interview about obstruction and Twitter.


GIULIANI: If they're looking at his tweets, the investigation is done. If they are -- we're going to do obstruction by tweet on a president of United States as an article of impeachment? Go read the "Law Review" articles about that. It's laughable. It's scary.


HARLOW: Is it so laughable since the White House has said clearly tweets from the president are direct statements from the president in the White House?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's not laughable at all. And I know it's been a long time since Rudy Giuliani was trying cases. But statements of defendants or other parties are used constantly in proving cases. And tweets are just statements. So there's really nothing different here than if he made oral statements or written statements. That's really all these are.

HARLOW: Let's also get you to weigh in on this because we know how upset the president is and his legal team is that Michael Cohen recorded this call. And 100 calls. But one of them at least that has the president on it. Of course this is about the -- you know, discussion about paying off Karen McDougal who had alleged she had an affair with the president and sold the rights to AMI and what it would take to get those rights from AMI.

Here is more on what Giuliani said this morning.


GIULIANI: How did I know that he was a lawyer taping his client? You tell me a lawyer is taping his client, I got to say, sorry, I made a mistake. The guy is unethical. He is a scumbag, he is a horrible person. I never heard of a lawyer taping his client without the client's consent.


HARLOW: Is he right on that?

RODGERS: Well, it's not a good idea to tape your clients. I think most lawyers would agree that that's not a good practice. It seems like he was using that almost as a -- like a note taking device. But it's not a good idea. You deal with your client's confidence. So it's not a great idea but it's not illegal. There's nothing legally wrong with having done it. And now he has a record of what was said there that may actually come in handy if he is testifying about some of these matters.

[10:05:09] So yes, as a lawyer, it's not the best practice. But, you know, in terms of being a witness, there's nothing wrong with having done any of it. It may actually be good for prosecutors.

HARLOW: Jennifer Rodgers, thank you for your legal expertise this morning.

Let's talk about the politics of all this, where this goes. With me now, CNN senior political analyst, John Avlon, and Toluse Olorunnipa. I hope I got that right. White House reporter for Bloomberg. I have tried so hard, my friend. Thank you for being here.

So first question to you, Toluse. The president going after Mueller over and over again, but really stepping it up this weekend. I mean, three times in a series of tweets over the weekend, he tweeted witch hunt 18 times this month, 64 times in the last three months. And I lay those numbers out because this is at the same time that the American public sort of approval of the Mueller probe is declining. It was 48 percent approval in -- you know, on how Mueller is handling it in March. And now it's 41 percent, the lowest it's been. '

Is the president's strategy working?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: Well, if his strategy is to undermine confidence in the Justice Department and the institution of the legal process, then, yes, it's working in some ways because he keeps calling this a witch hunt. He has the biggest bully pulpit on the planet. And he says there's no collusion, he did nothing wrong and this is a witch hunt. He is, you know, misinforming the public by saying that Mueller is employing 13 angry Democrats. We don't necessarily know that any of these people are actually angry.

So the president is using his bully pulpit to punch down at this investigation. And we're seeing the public starts to react to some of that. But Mueller, you know, because he can't respond to any of this, that's part of the reason you're seeing these numbers go down. This is sort of a one-sided attack and the president is ratcheting it up, going from a witch hunt to a rigged witch hunt to a Bob Mueller-rigged witch hunt.


OLORUNNIPA: He is being much more direct in his attacks now.

HARLOW: You couldn't see my friend John Avlon sitting next to me but when you said a Bob Mueller-rigged witch hunt, he went like this.


HARLOW: So I mean, what -- it was only I think a few months ago this president finally started naming Bob Mueller in these tweets, and now directly attacking Mueller and now doing it more and more.

AVLON: Well, the president focuses on branding and creating these sort of earworm insults. And I think by bringing together the Robert Mueller rigged witch hunt, he's really trying to create a new phrase that sticks in folks' minds. Look, the poll numbers suggest that these sort of attacks, Rudy Giuliani really playing to the court of public opinion, may be having an impact on undermining public confidence. Obviously having a president consciously try to undermine confidence in the Justice Department, not good for democracy.

At the end of the day, though, this is something about -- that's bigger than the court of public opinion. The Mueller report will show the Mueller report shows. And then hopefully, the American people have the independence of mind, still, despite the partisan fever dream we are in, to judge it on the facts. And then we'll figure out where to go from there.

HARLOW: So let me ask you how Democrats should play this. I just had Congressman Denny Heck on last hour and he said, look, Democrats aren't running on the Mueller problem, they're not running on Russia. You know, a lot of them tweet a lot about it and they talk a lot about it.


HARLOW: And there is this Quinnipiac poll from just a few days ago that shows if Democrats retake the House in the midterms 65 percent of Democratic voters think that they should proceed with articles of impeachment. I mean, how do Democrats play this? Because -- AVLON: Yes, look, Democrat, you know, leadership and a lot of leading

lights of the party they're saying very clearly, do not run on impeachment. Do not make this a referendum on impeachment. Now that may be a disconnect with the base that is being motivated by real anti-Trump animus. But this needs to be a process that's rooted in the rule of law. And so I think people recognize the danger of running on impeachment.

Rudy Giuliani said this morning.


AVLON: That look, if the report came out before, and he said on his interview with Alisyn on "NEW DAY," that Bob Mueller had indicated to him that it could be out as early as September.

HARLOW: September.

AVLON: Which I think could be significant. And the results might be good for the president or they might rally the opposition. You know, TBD. But that's a significant factor.

HARLOW: Here is the warning that -- sort of a dark horse potential contender, Toluse, for 2020. New Orleans former mayor Mitch Landrieu. Here's sort of his -- Mitch Landrieu. Here's his caution to Jake over the weekend. Let's listen.


MITCH LANDRIEU (D), FORMER NEW ORLEANS MAYOR: This impeachment talk in my opinion is premature. I think you have to let these investigations follow their course. You think, let the lawyers do their job. And when there is evidence of something that significant, then you take that step and impeachment in a democracy is always the last resort, not the first resort. And running towards that at this point in time in my opinion right now, based on what we know, is ill advised.


HARLOW: He says it's ill advised. Do you agree that it could hurt Democrats to focus too much on this despite with that polling shows about Democratic voters?

OLORUNNIPA: Yes, I think Democrats that are out on the campaign trail are mostly not campaigning on impeachment. They are focusing on things like the economy, the tax cuts, health care, people's pocketbook issues.

[10:10:02] I think they're looking at the same polling that shows that even though the base of the party wants to impeach the president, there are so many other messages that can be used to --

HARLOW: But isn't -- just to jump in, isn't it hard to run on the economy right now if you are a Democrat? Given the strong economic numbers we just saw on Friday? OLORUNNIPA: Yes. What they are mostly doing is really focusing on

who are the winners in this economy. You look at the tax cuts and you look at the fact that a lot of the benefits did flow to corporations and the wealthy and there are still people that are struggling to make ends meet. There are people who are struggling with healthcare costs that are rising in part because of how this administration is handling Obamacare.

They didn't replace it but they're trying to sort of basically allow it to die on the vine and allow people's costs to go up without having a replacement in place. So there are a number of pocketbook issues that people are looking at. And even though the tax cuts did pass six months ago, if you look at real wages, even though GDP is going up, real wages are going down.


OLORUNNIPA: So there are a lot of everyday people that have not benefitted yet. And that's the message that I think a lot of Democrats are trying to make.

HARLOW: It's a fair point. I just wonder, John Avlon, how you think they effectively do it when every time the president goes to a steel mill, as he did in Granite City, Illinois, all the news cameras follow him and he gets -- you know, he is front and center making the message that -- he is saying, look, this is helping main street America. And I get it, it's helping some not all. And Democrats say, look, it needs to help a wider swath of them. Are they going to have a tough time making the case?

AVLON: Well, look, I mean, they can't run against the Trump economy. It's done very well to date. And I think the key point here is that does it really trickle down to main street? Are there unexpected victims of a trade war with tariffs that may be in Trump's base? We saw last week in the Marist poll, Trump's approval numbers are down dramatically. The 36 percent in Wisconsin and Michigan. So Trump has got the bully pulpit.

HARLOW: Right.

AVLON: He's going to be able to get credits. Democrats may not rally to the rising deficit and debt issue.


AVLON: But I do think their hope on that is to say, look, is it Wall Street or is it main street? Because that's where we're going to focus. And what Mitch Landrieu is doing is self-described radical centrist. On one side of that Democratic debate is saying don't get over your skis, don't do something dumb like root for a bad economy. Don't root for impeachment. Let's follow the law. Someone needs to be the party of adults.

HARLOW: Government shutdown, the president threatened it this weekend. Bluster?

AVLON: Unbelievable.

HARLOW: Or will he do it?

AVLON: Look, you know, take people at their word, especially this president. That said, this is a Republican president threatening a government shutdown with a Republican Congress. While trying to blame Democrats. For his immigration fix. It is stunning. And you can see Republicans panicked on Capitol Hill. We're 99 days out. Republican president threatening a shutdown with unified control, that is bad news bears all the way.

HARLOW: Good news Monday. Bad news bear. John Avlon, thank you very much. Toluse, I appreciate you both being here.

Ahead for us, the next time you fly, someone may be watching you. Newly released documents reveal a secret TSA program that is keeping an eye on unsuspecting passengers. We have the details.

Also we are 99 days away from the midterms. New polling suggests the blue wave may be on the horizon. We'll tell you why.

And the wildfires continue to rage in California. Little relief in sight especially when it comes to the weather. We're live with the story of one family devastated by the blaze.


[10:17:34] HARLOW: Think about this for one moment. Have you slept on a flight recently? Maybe fidgeted a little bit? If you have, it turns out an undercover air marshal may have been monitoring you. Seriously.

Rene Marsh is here to explain. So this is a new, some stunning report. But they've been doing this since 2010.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION: Yes. Absolutely right. But now it's coming to light. And it really is raising some eyebrows when you hear the list of things that these air marshals are looking for.

I can tell you that TSA tells CNN that again this is -- this previously undisclosed program which we now know is called "Quiet Skies" has been happening for years. Air marshals essentially whose core mission after September 11th was to protect the cockpit are now focused on monitoring unsuspecting passengers who are not suspected of a specific crime, have not been convicted of a crime and they're not on any terror watch list.

Now the TSA again says that this has been going on since 2010. Federal air marshals, they are monitoring American passengers' behavior while in flight. Things like, are you abnormally aware of your surroundings, excessive fidgeting, excessive perspiration, rapid eye blinking. Even -- and I'm guilty of this -- sleeping on a flight.

Well, the "Globe" first reported the details about the program this weekend. TSA won't give too many details about how the program actually works. But they say that the passengers who are tracked are selected based on past travel patterns like whether they've traveled to terror hot spots, the agency also says that they get a lot of information from the intel community.

And we do have a statement from TSA on this program. They say that it absolutely is not intended to surveil ordinary Americans. Instead, its purpose is to ensure passengers and flight crew are protected during air travel. No different than putting a police officer on a beat where intelligence and information presents the need for increased watch and deterrents.

But I can tell you, Poppy, I have been speaking to people over the weekend about this. There are privacy concerns. But among some federal air marshals, they are also concerned that if they are focusing on individual passengers who have no obvious ties to terrorism, this is essentially distracting them from their core mission of protecting the cockpit.

HARLOW: I know that they do push back also and say, look, this is subject to intense congressional oversight, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

[10:15:05] Do you know, Rene, if any terrorist plots have actually been thwarted because of the program?

MARSH: This is a key question. And TSA will not answer. They will not say if as a result of this they were able to foil any plots. So at this point, we just do not know the success of this program -- Poppy.

HARLOW: OK. Thank you for the reporting. Keep us posted.

MARSH: Sure.

HARLOW: What is the number one thing that could influence voters this November? Ahead, we will tell you.


[10:25:13] HARLOW: Days until the midterms, 99. But it's this number that should be worrying Republicans, 42. That is the president's approval rating according to the latest Gallup polling, and a key factor in who voters will back.

Going ahead looking at Republicans versus Democrats, joining me now our mighty duo, Chris Cillizza, Harry Enten.

Thanks, gent. I'm going to come up with a creative title for you each time. That was my first shot, you know.


HARLOW: So, Harry, great piece over the weekend, by the way, my friend. The five metrics, it suggests Democrats are poised for quite a blue wave come November. What are the main ones? HARRY ENTEN, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER AND ANALYST: Well, you hit on

the number one which is the president's approval rating. I went back over time since the 1946 midterm elections and looked at each president's approval rating and how his party did in the midterm elections and a president's approval rating at 42 percent is not very good for his party, would point definitely towards a Democratic wave.

Second, I'd be looking at the generic congressional ballot. We see Democrats ahead by high single digits on that. That's again indicative of a wave. We can look at how CNN is rating each particular race, the vulnerable seats. What we see is there are a lot more vulnerable Republican seats than Democratic seats. Traditionally that's been a sign of a wave.

So there are a bunch of different factors I looked at. And all five pointed towards Democrats doing very well come November.

HARLOW: But, Chris Cillizza, how could Democrats blow this? I mean, could they lean too far to the left, for example? You note in your column about a week ago the five major questions everyone should ask Democrats and one of them is, is anyone too liberal?

CILLIZZA: Yes, so I think that that question, Poppy, that fight is probably a post-2018 pre-2020 fight in the presidential race. As Harry has noted, the most important thing here as it relates to midterms is the president's approval rating. It's been true for basically as long as we have had politics. There have been only three midterm elections since the 20th century where the president's party has picked up House seats. That's 1934 in the midst of the Great Depression, 1998, Bill Clinton impeachment, and 2002 with the after affects of September 11th.

So outside of a huge, catastrophic societal event, we know that the president's party is going to lose seats. It's just a way that these elections work. The question is, can Donald Trump -- because I don't know if Democrats can do much. But can Donald Trump get his approval rating from 41, 42 to 46, 47? Or would it potentially drop to 39, 38?

HARLOW: Right.

CILLIZZA: That's a big difference in terms of the number of seats that could be lost or saved.

HARLOW: It's a good question. But, Harry Enten, how could he do that? I mean, the thing is he's already got this strong economy in his pocket. And so many people vote on the economy. So you think, oh, if he could, you know, have a major sort of boon for the economy, that would tick up his -- you would think that would tick up his approval numbers, although it hasn't, despite the strong economy. So what else could he do?

ENTEN: Well, I would think my number one piece of advice would be to shut up. Let the economy do the talking. Every day he goes on Twitter and there's some distraction that's going on. If this election were solely about the economy, the Republicans would be doing a lot better than they're doing right now. I'm not sure there's very much he can do. I think, you know, if

Mueller came back and said, you know, Trump didn't collude, everything is fine, maybe that would help. But beyond that, I mean, look, the president's approval rating, even though it perhaps has risen a little bit since the beginning of the year has been stuck in the low 40s. And historically speaking, when that happens, good-bye, adios, amigos to your majority.

The two examples that were recent that Chris cited where the president's party didn't lose seats, 1998 and 2002 the president's approval rating was north of 60 percent. I mean, you don't have to be a mathematical expert to know that 60 percent is not really close to 40 percent.

HARLOW: That you don't. Let's listen, guys, to something that you pointed out in your joint piece about a week ago, a dark horse, possible 2020 contender, New Orleans former mayor Mitch Landrieu who was on with Jake yesterday morning. This was an interesting question Jake asked him.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Are you concerned at all about your party as critics say lurching to the left?

LANDRIEU: I have always talked about governing from the middle. I'm what they call a radical centrist, there's not many of us left anymore. And yes, it is really important for us to make sure that if we are given the responsibility to govern that we'd govern in a pragmatic way, in a big time way that makes sense.


HARLOW: Chris, is there room in the Democratic Party for 2020 Dreamers to be, you know, to be radical centrists?

CILLIZZA: I don't want to say no definitively. But I'll say no at least at the moment. What you see, Poppy, is for the most part, you've got candidates Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, all moving as far left as they can.